Sunday, February 15, 2009

Think twice, cut once.

It's raining. It's windy. I could put on my raincoat and wellies and go outside and start pruning, and maybe I will later today, but for now I have decided to stay put and service my pruning shears.
As I have mentioned before, pruning is the most important thing that one can do to grape vines. It stands to reason then that the equipment used should be in tip top condition. I prefer to use Felco pruners but any brand of pruning shears need to be cleaned, sharpened and oiled quite frequently. This will ensure that the pruning cuts are clean, the pruner can work fast and, in the process, doesn't end up slicing through a digit. (Leather gloves are a good idea too).
I'm an OK pruner, but I am not very fast. I would not have stood a chance in the contest that was held last Thursday. The 8th Annual Napa County Pruning Contest attracted the best and fastest pruners in the valley. It's amazing to see these field workers make their way through a vineyard, almost locust like, leaving trimmed vines in their wake. It's back breaking work and I take my hat off to the men, and women, who make it possible for me to enjoy a glass of wine. It's a bit of an art and not everyone is good at it. I acknowledge that there are vineyard managers who oversee operations and wealthy vineyard owners who make the planting of the land to vines possible in the first place. However, it is the pruner who has that one on one interaction with the vine and determines the crop yield and quality of the fruit. Without great fruit a winemaker cannot make great wine. I, for one, am glad that the pruners get a little recognition for the essential work they do.
For a long time, I have wanted to throw down my pruning gloves and challenge somebody, such as ex-ambassador Katherine Hall, to a pruning contest. Vinomaker thinks this is mean spirited of me, but I think it is highly unlikely that she knows anything about viticulture. I am positive she would not accept the duel anyway and even if she did, I'd win gloves down. I'll just have to be satisfied with sticking to drinking wine from producers who actually know what is going on out there in their vineyards.


Thud said...

What can you expect with a Berkeley calm down and have a drink.

Vinogirl said...

OK, OK. I'm drinking as I type!

Vinomaker said...

Now that the pruning equipment is tuned up, it is a good time to test it out. The recent rain has lessened the chances of fungal infection by one of the grapevines nemeses, Eutypa lata, that can enter through pruning wounds. The fungus inserts itself into the xylem system of the plant and travels slowly down to the root system leaving necrotic tissue behind, hence the name, Eutypa Dieback.
For my task I have chosen a Felco #2 with a cutting range up to 1" in diameter. It is the old Classic Style without the revolving handle, which fits my big hands comfortably. Vinogirl uses a Felco #6 with a smaller and more ergonomic grip but same cutting range. Armed with her weapon, she is quick and decisive with her cuts leaving me in her wake to clean up last year's canes hanging in the trellis wires. Fortunately with well maintained tools and Vinogirl's skill, we encourage our vines to reward us with the best fruit possible from our small vineyard.

Vinogirl said...

Ahh...but you make wonderful wine from my grapes and that is the ultimate reward.

phlegmfatale said...

You know, one of the things I'm most looking forward to about getting my own house again will be the establishment and maintenance of a garden. Tending plants is soul-nourishing, to me, and I can imagine pruning the vines must be even moreso, as the act is pregnant with the lubricant of future social bliss.

word verification - inabler
Yup. I'm an enabler.

Craig Justice said...

Good luck with the pruning and watch those fingers. (Our neighbor Jim cut his finger twice -- yes two times -- in one outing last year.) We finished all of our pruning in the middle of all those storms and hail and wind last week, and, we took advantage of the wet weather to plant another 40 Tempranillo vines to fill in some gaps (and also to experiment with some "denser" plantings). I haven't been so wet and damp since I lived in Seattle and used to ride my bike to college in all those storms. Well, the sun is out, and we're drying out, and it's almost 70 degrees, and we've been spraying (for the first time). Dormant spray with oil -- we haven't had a mildew problem before (Coyote Karen our neighbor has never sprayed before and has never had a problem -- although Merlot Mike -- our other neighbor must spray to avoid mildew problems-- maybe this early spraying will prevent any problem for us this year. Well, time to get back outside. Cheers!